By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
It’s a brand-new season for the South Alabama Jaguars (1-3) as they start Sun Belt Conference play this Saturday. They will travel to face the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (1-2), who also start their conference play this Saturday. The Jaguars have faced a brutal schedule with tough losses to Nebraska, Memphis, and UAB. The Warhawks have also encountered highly difficult non-conferences so far this season. The Warhawks had a chance to defeat the Florida State Seminoles when they missed an extra point in overtime. Last week, Louisiana-Monroe lost to the Iowa State Cyclones with a 72-20 score.
Both the Jaguars and the Warhawks come into this game looking to get better on both sides of the ball. Specifically, for South Alabama, they are looking to become more efficient on offense. Out of 130 FBS teams, the Jaguars rank 124th in points scored per game (16.8) and rank 117th in total yards accounted for (323). The Jaguars display great versatility in play selection in the RPO setting.
Finding that efficiency is the first step to having the Jaguars become a more dangerous offense. That starts up front with the offensive line. Head coach Steve Campbell mentioned in the press conference last Monday, “we need to be more violent.” Aggressiveness can also help the rushing game and the passing game. They will get that chance on Saturday against ULM by playing a different style of defense from UAB. Last Tuesday, wide receiver Cade Sutherland was asked about the coverage schemes, he responded with, “UAB went a lot of cover two stuff and ULM, they go a lot of one high and they go man a lot so we want to see if we go hit them deep since they go man a lot.”
South Alabama will face a ULM defense that is ranked 126th in the nation in points allowed per game (42), 119th in passing yards allowed per game (296.7), 124th in rushing yards allowed per game (244), and finally, 127th in total yards allowed per game (541).
On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars’ defense has a big task of once again stopping a highly efficient offense. ULM’s offense is 39th in the nation in offensive efficiency (63.2) and 62nd in points scored per game (31.7). Luckily for the Jaguars, the Warhawks are more one-dimensional than previous opponents like Memphis and UAB. The key for South Alabama’s defense is stopping a Warhawks rushing game that is ranked 24th in rushing yards per game (240.3). This is due to a running for ULM in Josh Johnson who has 50 carries for 386 yards and four touchdowns in three games.
This will be a big game for Jaguars middle linebacker Nick Mobley, who is the team’s leading tackler with 32 total tackles. Safety D.J. Daniels is another defender that will have to fast and alert in attacking ULM’s run game. So far this season, Daniels has accounted for 27 total tackles (second-highest on the team), 21 solo tackles, and 3.5 tackles for loss. This is due to his consistency to get into the opposing backfield and disrupt the play.
The Jaguars defense have experienced recent problems when the game becomes longer. Missed tackles and bad communication on assignments have hindered South Alabama’s defense on making good plays thus giving the opposing offense a big opportunity for a big game.
This is the start of a brand-new start for the season for the Jaguars as they contend for the Sun Belt Conference Championship and for a bowl game. The Jaguars will take on the Warhawks in Monroe. Louisiana on Saturday, 6 pm.